Dubbed as the Queen of Hill Stations in India, Shimla is the erstwhile summer capital of the British India. Shimla boasts of captivating scenic surroundings, snow clad mountains, endearing greenery, alluring lakes, and a lovely climate; these were perhaps the reasons why the British were attracted to this place. Now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is quite a popular destination for holidaymakers in India. Here is the list of best places to visit in Shimla.
Situated in the centre of Shimla is the Ridge Road – a large open road running adjacent to the famous Mall Road. It is the center for all sorts of cultural activities and festivals in Shimla. It offers you mesmerizing views of the mountain ranges around and is dotted with several shops selling local artifacts, crafts, clothes, etc. It is also home to some of the prominent landmarks of the hill station which includes Old Christ Church – a neo-Gothic structure from 1844 and a colonial library building that dates back to 1910. Statues of Gandhiji, Dr. Y. S Parmar (1st CM of the state) and Indira Gandhi, stands tall on the Ridge.
Summer Hills is a quintessential town situated on the outskirts of Shimla at an elevation of 2123 meters above sea level. It is a part of the seven hills – the cluster which together makes Shimla. With pine and deodar strewn slopes, it houses many quaint residences among which is the Manorville Mansion – the place where Gandhiji stayed during his Shimla visits. Located on the Shimla-Kalka railway line, Summer Hill offers its visitors with some of the most spectacular views of the mist-laden hills and valleys around. It is also known as the Potter’s Hill, as at some point in the past it used to be the place for collecting clay used in making pots. It is situated about 5 kilometers west of the famous Shimla
Jhakoo Hill is the highest peak in Shimla at an elevation of 2455 meters above sea level. The journey to the top is a short trek and is well worth it, as it offers a charming panoramic view of the Shivalik ranges. Atop the hill is the Jhakoo temple of Lord Hanuman. The temple boasts of having the tallest statue of Lord Hanuman (108 feet) and attracts pilgrims from far-flung places who come here to pay homage to the deity. The legend goes that Lord Hanuman rested here for some time before he resumed his search for the Sanjeevani Booti that was needed to save Lord Lakshman.
Located about 20 kilometers from Shimla in the Himalayan foothills, Kufri is a hub for adventure sports activities like ice skating and skiing. It is very picturesque location and offers some of the best views of the snowcapped mountains and valleys around. Kufri along with some other places around Shimla was once a part of the Nepal Kingdom and was given to the British Raj as a part of Sugauli Treaty. Apart from adventure sports activities, you can also enjoy a visit to the Himalayan wildlife zoo here where you can enjoy seeing rare antelopes, felines, and birds.
No trip to Shimla is complete if you have not taken a stroll on the Mall Road of Shimla. Lined with shops selling different wares – from woolens, shawls, local artifacts, and jewelry, it is situated a level below the ridge. The point where Mall Road joins the Ridge is known as Scandal Point. The point got its name during the colonial days due to the scandalous commotion caused here by the abduction of the daughter of Lord Kitchener by the Maharaja of Patiala. The Mall Road celebrates the spirit of Shimla in all its hues; vehicles are not allowed on this road which makes window shopping and walking down here a pleasure. It also has eateries and cafes to cater to the visitors.
One of the prominent landmarks on the Ridge, Christ Church in Shimla is among the oldest Churches in North India. Designed in neo-gothic architectural style, it was consecrated in the year 1857 to serve the Anglican British Community in Shimla. It is one of those legacies of the British India that has survived all the political turmoil in the Indian sub-continent. Five stained glass windows adorn the church. It is well lit at night and its imposing structure can be spotted from a distance. The Church is quite well maintained and is quite popular among tourists. It can be spotted in some scenes of Bollywood movies like 3 idiots and Black.
Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex
A perfect example of the Victorian architectural style, Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex has been standing tall on the Mall Road in Shimla since 1887. Designed by Sir Henry Irwin, in its original form it was a five story building one part of which was the Gaiety theatre. After 20 years of its establishment, it had to be partly demolished due to structural stability issues, but the theatre has been intact. Legends like Rudyard Kipling, Baten Powel, Prithvi Raj Kapoor and K L Sehgal have performed here. Today, it is an epitome of art and culture and attracts visitors throughout the year.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Located in the Observatory Hills of Shimla, the Viceregal Lodge also known as the Rashtrapati Niwas was the summer residence of the British Viceroy of India. Designed by the British architect Henry Irwin, it took 8 years to construct it. Professor S. Radhakrishnan, former president of India handed it to the Ministry of Education and today it houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, a postdoctoral humanities research centre. A thirty minutes tour is available for tourists where they visit three rooms and enjoy the photo exhibition. It also has a well-maintained garden which makes for a nice stroll.
Kalka Shimla Railway
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other Mountain Railways of India in the year 2008, the Kalka-Shimla Railway is a must-see for every tourist visiting the hill station. The route starting at the Himalayan Shivalik foothills at Kalka to Shimla boasts of some of the most splendid views of the mountains and the valleys around. It is a narrow-gauge railway that was built to connect Shimla to rest of the country through railways. A legacy of the British Raj, a total of 107 tunnels and 864 bridges were constructed throughout the course of this mountainous rail route.
At a distance of around 4 kilometers from the Ridge, Annandale is situated in the suburban village of Kaithu in Shimla West. It once happened to be the sports hub for the British. It is a flat terrain with ample open space and hence is ideal for games like cricket, polo, and even racing. Now, it has been converted into a mini golf course and also houses a helipad. The location of Annandale is very serene with dense deodar and oak trees around. It offers mesmerizing views of the city of Shimla. There is also an Indian Army Heritage Museum which exhibits the history of the Indian army.
The Shimla State Museum
Built in 1974 with the aim to record and showcase the cultural heritage and history of the state, the Shimla State Museum is located on a lonely hill in Shimla named Inveram. The building that houses the museum is an old Victorian style mansion surrounded by well-manicured lawns. The museum has an extensive collection of relics of ancient arts, crafts, sculptures, coins, paintings, etc. It also showcases things related to the state’s archaeology and cultural anthropology. If you are someone who is interested in the state’s past, this museum will be of huge interest to you.
Previously known as Chidku Jhaar in the local dialect, this waterfall was named Chadwick falls by the British. Located inside the scenic and dense Glen forest, this waterfall is about 7 kilometers from Shimla. The water falls from a height of 86 meters and cascade deep into a gorge. The sound of the falling water amidst the thick glen of pine and deodar and mist-covered hills is like soothing music to the ears. If hiking and trekking entice you, this place is a must visit. Photography enthusiasts and nature lovers will love this place too.
Located at a height of 2250 m, Chail is the former capital of the princely state of Patiala. It is famous for having the highest polo and cricket grounds in the world. Blessed with amazing scenic views of the mountains, Chail is a gem nestled in the hills of Himachal. The story behind its establishment goes like this – when King Bhupinder Singh of Patiala abducted the daughter of Lord Kitchener, from the scandal point in Shimla, the couple was barred from entering Shimla. The king then established himself in the village of Chail about 45 kilometers from Shimla. The view of the Shivalik Mountains, lush orchards, and the pine valleys is a scene to behold and admire.